After a public demonstration of new voting machines, members of the Macon County Board of Elections presented its recommendation to purchase 24 new voting machines from Hart InterCivic Systems to the board of commissioners.
Longtime Board of Elections member Gary Dills spoke to commissioners on behalf of the board Tuesday night explaining why the county wanted to purchase the Hart Systems over ES&S, specifically citing the professionalism and transparency of Hart.
The new voting machines will cost the county right at $200,000 and will include 24 new machines, 20 of which will be used at various precincts, allowing 4 to be kept in case a need arises. Hart’s overall cost was $14,000 less than the ES&S software and the county stands to save even more over the proposed maintenance and recurring contract costs.
Macon County is one of only five counties in the state that use the current voting system within their machines. The system is 40 years old and currently facing issues with software and equipment no longer being available for repairs and upgrades.
The new machines will continue to utilize paper ballots, which is policy across North Carolina. The machines are in no way connected to the internet and will feature little change for voters compared to the machines they are more accustomed to.
With the county’s vote to purchase the equipment from the county’s fund balance, the board of elections is required to hold a simulated election in January which will be run by the North Carolina Board of Elections. If there are no issues during that election, Macon County would then move forward with purchasing the new machines and begin the process of training poll workers. According to Board of Elections Director Melanie Thibault, the county will need to train around 125 poll workers on the new machines prior to the 2023 municipal elections.
After the municipal elections, which will be the first real election the new machines will be utilized in, the county will then be ready to roll out the new machines for all voting precincts by the 2024 Presidential Election.
Hart InterCivic Inc. is a privately held United States company that provides election technologies and services to government jurisdictions. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Hart products are used by hundreds of jurisdictions nationwide, including counties in Texas, the entire states of Hawaii and Oklahoma, half of Washington and Colorado, and certain counties in Ohio, California, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Hart entered the elections industry in 1912, printing ballots for Texas counties. The company, formerly a division of Hart Graphics, Inc., was established as a subsidiary called Hart Forms & Services in 1989. In 1995, to better communicate its full scope of document management services, Hart Forms & Services changed its name to Hart Information Services, Inc. During the next five years, Hart Information Services rapidly expanded its market presence through the acquisition of three major election services providers: Texas County Printing & Services, Computer Link Corporation, and Worldwide Election Systems. Worldwide was the developer of the eSlate, Hart’s direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machine. The eSlate was specifically designed to accommodate the needs of voters with disabilities. It is not a touch-screen device but uses a Select Wheel and digital push-button interface.